Naturally dyed Easter eggs: a tutorial

I have always used artificial food coloring to dye eggs in the past, but as my family has been transitioning away from highly processed, artificial ingredients, I started to think that there must be a better alternative. The following is the result of our expiramenting with natural dyes:

1. Gather your ingredients. We chose (clockwise from top) beets (approx 1 cup), grape juice concentrate (1/2 cup), yellow onion skins (1 cup) , red cabbage (1 cup), And turmeric (2T). You will also need vinegar, water, small saucepots, and a seive or colendar. Oh, and eggs 🙂
Beets = pinkish beige, grape juice = blueish lavendar, onion skins = deep orange, red cabbage = light blue (I know, right?), and turmeric=yellow.

2. Make your dyestock. For the beets, onion skins, turmeric, and cabbage, add each to a small pot with one teaspon of vinegar (important to set the dye), and three cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer at least 20-30 minutes. Pour through a seive to remove any veggie bits, and cool. Yes, the cabbage dye looks very red. The eggs will be blue, I promise! For the grape juice, just add the concentrate to three cups of water. I added 1 tsp vinegar, but you may wish to try it without first. It seemed to me that the juice was acidic enough on its own that the egg shells became a little bit pitted after a long soak in the grape juice dye with additional vinegar.

3. Prepare your eggs. You can either dye hardboiled eggs or raw eggs, which can later be pierced and blown out to use as decorations.

4. Optional: for botanical eggs, gather a few bits of leaves, flowers, etc… from your yard. Cut a small square of pantyhose, place your flower/leaf on it, set an egg on top, wrap the pantyhose around the egg, twist and secure with rubberbands. When you dye these eggs, be sure to let hem dry completely before removing the pantyhose, or the design may smudge.

5. To dye the eggs, carefully lower them into a cup of dye so that the are completely submerged. It will take MUCH longer for eggs to dye with natural dyes than artificial. Be patient. Have another activity ready for the kiddos while you wait. I let my eggs soak anywhere from 20 minutes or so to an hour. With the exception of the onion skin dye, any longer than that didn’t seem to make much difference (Onion skin eggs will get surprisingly dark, rusty orange if left for a long time!). Just lift them up with a spoon and peek every now and then until they look good to you. They may not be quite as bright as what you are used to, and thats okay.

6. Carefully remove the eggs from the dye and place them gently on an old towel to dry completely. Don’t try to wipe them, especially if the shell looks a little pitted. You will wipe off some of the color!

Resulting colors, clockwise from top: onion, cabbage, turmeric, beets, and grape juice

Expirament with other fruits and veggies to see what colors you can come up with. Try berries, carrots, anything with a deep color. Anyone have a good green? I’d love to hear! You can also add designs to the eggs by drawing on them before dying with crayons (the wax will resist dye. I like to write a “secret message” egg for Miles with a white crayon, the message appears like magic!), adding stickers, rubberbands around eggs for stripes, etc… Have fun.

PS. Don’t throw out that cabbage juice yet! Have a bit of science expirament fun by adding a bit of baking soda to see what happens. Then a bit of vinegar. Then a bit more baking soda. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it is pretty neat! This entertained Miles for a good half hour 😉


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